'Every Philadelphian deserves equal access to their government'
Ensuring that language minority communities have access to their government is a step closer to reality. City Council passed a legislation that proposes to amend the City Charter introduced by Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez.
Resolution No. 14074 and Bill No. 14076, will be included in the elections ballot on May 19. If adopted by voters, the proposed Charter amendment will ensure that uniform standards are followed by all city agencies, boards, and commissions in providing equal access to municipal services and civic engagement for Philadelphia's Limited English Proficient residents.
Newly covered agencies include the City Council and 'row offices' such as the City Commissioners, the District Attorney, the Board of Revision of Taxes, and the Sheriff.
“We are gonna get all of our advocates together and make sure that as part of the ‘Get out to vote’ effort, this initiative is embraced. We want to make sure that all the mayoral candidates are aware of it and that they support it, not only on a vocal way but in their efforts to engage Latino voter to come out,” Quiñones-Sánchez said. “We want our non-profit organizations who are traditionally non-partisan to make this a part of their efforts to ensure that everyone votes.”
Last year the councilwoman held the first City Council hearings devoted to assessing language access needs, as well as diversity in city hiring. "Ensuring adequate language access is not just a legal requirement; it is also a moral imperative," said Quiñones-Sánchez. "Despite real progress, further steps are needed to ensure our local government truly represents and meets the needs of all its residents."
At today’s City Council session, Quiñones-Sánchez highlighted the value of Philadelphia becoming a global city and the contributions of immigrants in the vitality of neighborhoods across the city. “Language access is crucial in a city as diverse as Philadelphia, where the foreign-born population has increased by over 40,000 people in the last fifteen years and one in five Philadelphians speak a language other than English at home,” Quiñones said.
With the Charter amendment the mayor would also be required to designate an entity to assist agencies with drafting and implementing language access plans, and to evaluate their compliance. Furthermore, an annual report for each agency will be filed with the Department of Records and made available to the public.
"There absolutely should not be any barriers to equitable access to city services for any citizen of Philadelphia," said Councilman Wilson Goode Jr., who co-sponsored the legislation.
"Every demographic group, every neighborhood, and every language speaker deserves the same entitlements,” Goode said.